Tonight was a night which was to be a celebration. A great leader was being honored and feted for accomplishments that no other had. It was to be a joyous occasion which would forever cement the legacy of Mats Sundin in Toronto. It was as though Sundin himself had known what was to come, imploring the home crowd to get behind the young group of Leafs. And then the game happened.
The first period yielded no score, but was little indication of what was to come. It was mostly boring with the two teams trading Icing calls and a couple of Phil Kessel opportunities. The second period was a house of horrors, giving up a four goal lead to a team that has difficulty scoring. To add insult to injury the Leafs patented speed failed to register a point through three periods.
This is no longer October, the haves and the have-nots have been largely determined. What is frightening is how hard Toronto is trying to get back into the latter group. Montreal is where they are in the standings largely because of Jaques Martins sit and wait style, but at this point it seems they understand that they have nothing to lose. They are playing to win, and it shows. Toronto is playing a style of game that does not draw confidence from those of us that follow this team with regularity. Teams that should be dead and buried are now coming back hard and the are not going to go away.
The Goaltending has also picked an odd time to fly south, as this really has been hit and miss for too much of the season. Neither goalie appears capable of taking the reigns, as the second period shows, a few saves is the difference of being in the game or being dead in the water. The goalies are hardly the only Leafs in need of an alibi for this crime, The speed was non existent, the finish was non existent, the effort was non existent, the coaching was non existent. The power play was a large part of Toronto flying up the standings, and just like all else, it disappeared.
The Brown-Steckel-Boyce combination was just about the only positive in this game. In what little ice time they recieved they played the perfect fourth line role. Hitting everything that moved, a couple good cycles in the offensive zone. It was hard to find any flaws in their game. Mike Brown hopefully gave everybody on the Leafs bench a lesson in Team mate 101, in going after PK Subban for his slew foot on Phil Kessel.
Sundin’s jersey going up to the rafters. This was richly deserved, and the Leafs should each write a 1000 word essay apologizing for the manner in which they decided to honor him. This was shameful.
Tim Connolly needs to spend a game in the press-box. I’m not telling Ron Wilson what to do and I am not trying to challenge his abilities, but the guy was not invisible in this game. He was worse, he was a liability. While trailing 3-0 he takes an awful slashing penalty to put the Canadiens up 4-0. Meritocracy would say that he needs to get a night or two off.
Nik Kulemin just had a child, so I am sympathetic, but he also needs a couple days off. This is not just a bad game or two, this is a trend.
The Leafs Defense. There is no point to single anybody out, they were all awful. If you want elaboration, go to the website and watch for yourself.
The Power Play was only slightly effective when the game was out of reach, and once again actually yielded as many opportunities for the Canadiens as it had. This is no longer a blip on the radar, by definition when something occurs with consistent fashion it becomes a trend.
The work ethic of the Leafs themselves was a negative. When things broke down, they went from being a five man unit with a system to five individuals with competing interests. This team has a very similar talent level of a team like the New York Rangers, but the Rangers have a work ethic that is second to none. If they performed the way Toronto has chosen to in the Past four games I would argue the results would be no different.
And as a side note if the hitting ever gets taken out of hockey, Toronto will be good to go. They don’t engage in front of their own goalie, they don’t defend their better players from the likes of PK Subban, They just don’t play physical. They are the most European North Americans that have ever played the game.